The Best Places to Stargaze in the US
Star light, star bright. Here are the best places to stargaze in the US.
Even on the clearest nights, it can still be hard to step outside and see a starry night sky. Artificial lights from cities block out the natural darkness, making night skies a little more… disappointing.
But not all is lost. Across the States, you’ll find vast areas of wilderness that boast natural dark skies. Gaze up and you’ll find yourself, quite literally, starstruck. The same feeling you get when you set eyes on our range of Plum Guide homes.
We’ve got all you need to know about the best stargazing spots, so check out our guide to the best places to stargaze in the US.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
You can't get better than Joshua Tree when it comes to the best places to stargaze in the US. The National Park is located in the High Desert (5,000 ft above sea level) and away from major cities, so you won’t have any light pollution. Joshua Tree has been awarded Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Sky Association. Each year in the fall, Joshua Tree has a Night Sky Festival where you can get involved with everything astronomy related. There are astronomy lectures, educational tables, solar viewing and tours at Sky’s the Limit Nature Center and Observatory.
The great thing about Joshua Tree is that you can see the night sky from any part of the park. That being said, there are some particular spots that serve as interesting viewpoints, such as Skull Rock, Cap Rock and the Ocotillo Patch. There are also plenty of roadside pullouts where you can stop and admire the sky. The park is a unique place to stargaze, as the Joshua trees make for an intriguing contrast to the night sky.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Lake Tahoe boasts up to 300 clear nights per year, making it easily one of the best places to stargaze in the US. Lake Tahoe is a popular spot for hiking, mountain biking and boating, but there are also adventure companies and astronomers who offer stargazing tours, such as Tahoe Star Tours. Every year, the Perseid meteor shower burns bright in the Lake Tahoe night sky. This phenomena attracts everyone from professional astronomers to amateur stargazers.
When it comes to locations, the lake has plenty to offer. Emerald Bay is an iconic Tahoe destination, but sees few visitors once the sun has set. Wrap up warm with a toasty drink and watch the Big Dipper fade into the sunrise.
To kick back and relax on the sand, Camp Richardson offers a peaceful experience with the sound of the water gently lapping the shore. Lie back on a blanket and watch the Milky Way come to life.
Alternatively, you can go for a drive into Hope Valley. This desolate area offers wide open skies and majestic peaks on the horizon. You can easily pull off from the main highway, where you’ll find plenty of trails leading to Carson River, a peaceful and serene spot to stargaze.
Situated in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the ski resort town of Aspen boasts some of the best stargazing skies in the country. The town’s lights create minimal light pollution and on a clear night, you can spot constellations, the Milky Way and even the occasional meteor. Make sure you visit during the annual Stars Above Aspen Astronomy Night. Head to the top of Aspen Mountain to explore the cosmos from 11,212 feet.
One of the best spots to stargaze in the area is Smuggler Mountain Road, close to downtown Aspen. A night time hike of Smuggler Mountain is an easy three mile round trip and makes for some killer photographs. If you’re a newbie when it comes to stargazing, the folk at The Little Nell are more than happy to show you the ropes and take you on a private stargazing tour.
Just a two and a half hour drive from Aspen is Breckenridge. Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range, this ski resort town attracts visitors all year round for its alpine activities, including skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, fly fishing, and of course, stargazing.
One of the best spots to stargaze in Breckenridge is Sapphire Point in White River National Forest. Despite being close to town, the light pollution is very minimal and you’ll be treated to clear views of the night sky. Hike up to the top of Swan Mountain (don’t worry, nothing too strenuous) for some great viewpoints. Other spots worth visiting are Boreas Pass and Hoosier Pass. Hoosier Pass is quite an isolated spot and you won’t get any noise or light pollution. Do keep in mind that it’s 11,500 feet high, so you might want to layer up.